Monday, August 31, 2015

And We're Back (Weekly Beast Part 1)

The summer flew by. I feel like Reed was in Kindergarten just a few weeks ago--and now he's already in first grade!

Oh, wait, right. He was in Kindergarten just a few weeks ago.

I'm so hilarious. Anyway, our summer break did indeed go by alarmingly quickly and suddenly (ish), we found ourselves at Sunday night, better known as First Day of School Eve! I mentioned in last week's beast that I had the Priesthood Preview last Sunday. Well, in my haste to get out the door, I forgot to make a plan with Ryan about Reed's back to school father's blessing. Ryan gave Reed a blessing while I was gone, and I was honestly a little sad to miss out, but happy that Ryan was able to give Reed a blessing to help ease Reed's nerves the night before the first day. When I got home, Ryan told me that Reed was feeling nervous about eating lunch at school for the first time, ever. Ryan got to talk to Reed about how all the other kids in his class were new at eating lunch at school, too, and he was sure the teacher would give them plenty of directions and that lunch would be great. Reed calmed down after their chat. After I talked to Ryan, I peeked in on the boys and found Reed still awake. We talked for a minute about his night, and I asked if he felt good during the blessing. He said he did, but was still nervous about lunch, but (in his words), "Then Daddy talked to me about it and I felt a lot better." How sweet is that?

Ryan started a first day of school tradition with Reed when Reed was in preschool: Ryan gets to do drop off on the first day. Now, we didn't really realize this preschool year--we were still tax season newbies then--but the first day of school is right in the middle of Ryan's fall busy season. Fall busy season doesn't even compare to spring busy season, but Ryan still is busier than usual and has to work extra hours. So waiting to go to work until after drop off would mean a much later night at work for Ryan. Ryan gently discussed this with Reed to test the waters of Reed's feelings about Daddy dropping him at school and quickly realized that the Daddy drop off was a big deal to Reed--so Daddy dropped him off! Reed is very attached to Ryan and really values special time with just the two of them, so he was very happy that Ryan took him to school.

I'll take a second here to note Reed's outfit of choice: the soccer shirt Grandma Lexie bought for him (it says "SKILLED," but when his backpack is on looks like it says "KILLED" which Asher thought was hilarious), his red shorts (some of his faves), and converse with FLAMES on them. He's so legit. He was very particular about his backpack, opting for a "cool design" over a character. He created two pins for his backpack: one that has a Harry Potter lightning bolt with green and black background--to match his backpack colors, of course--and one with a Harry Potter wand and various Harry Potter spells written all over it. And, side note, those buttons were a trial of my patience in mothering. I had two create-your-own buttons my mom gave me from her craft stash that were purchased many, many years ago. One day, for M and B time, I suggested we decorate the buttons together for his backpack. He scoffed at the suggestion. I felt a little bit rejected, so was quite happy when Asher thought that making buttons was the best idea EVER and happily colored with me. When Reed saw Asher's buttons he was so upset because he had wanted to make a button so badly, just apparently not that day. Right. Because he totally portrayed and enumerated that with his reaction. Thus began our search for more buttons to make. I wasn't even sure these buttons were produced anymore, so you can imagine my joy when we found said buttons at the second store we looked at. Crises averted. We bought two buttons for Reed, then had to buy a button for Lila, too, but no one was surprised by her desire to have exactly what the boys had.

His backpack was loaded with all his school supplies (to be left at school) and was literally wider than he is.

Asher, Lila, and I went to pick Reed up after school, where I learned that after-school pick up is a nightmare. There is not even close to enough parking around the school, no car pick-up line (no room), and our school is a hand-to-hand school--meaning parents have to go wait on school grounds for their kids, kids won't just get sent to parents waiting in cars--so yeah, there are a lot of people. We found a "parking spot" in the open desert next to the school, then trekked across the blacktop to Reed's class. We were happy to find that he had a great day and that lunch was also great. He found his friend Anthony from Kindergarten and the two of them ate together, which was fun. Reed and Anthony actually sat together every day this week, except for the one day when they couldn't find each other (?). He really liked his teacher, Mrs. Sears, and the kids at his table were all from Ms. McClenathan's kindergarten class, though two were afternoon kids he didn't already know. Mrs. Sears called me on Friday just to introduce herself and let me know Reed had a great first week, then to ask if I had any questions. I, too, like her already!

Also, back on the lunch subject: I'm definitely way too proud of this, but my first week of lunch-making went really well! Reed and I made a checklist that hangs on the pantry door, He is in charge of getting his ice pack, filling his water bottle, choosing which fruit or vegetable he wants (I pre-fill five baggies with different options; two had grapes, one had a note for me to cut apples, and two had carrots and celery and tiny tupperwares of ranch), and choosing something out of the pantry snack basket or a string cheese or yogurt (the pantry basket has things like pretzels, granola bars, crackers, fruit snacks). Our check list has a few "main dish" items he can choose between, which I then make. Once everything is gathered, I pack it into his lunch box and stick his lunch in his backpack! I also decided to slip in a daily note with a joke. Reed has LOVED the joke, asking me every day after school if I remember which joke I put in, then chuckling over the joke with me.

Poor, sad Asher

And last note on school--who knew a first day of school post could be so long?--because of Asher's tonsillectomy and my mom's help, I didn't drop Reed off at school until Friday! Weird, right?
I lied. One more note: poor Asher was so distraught that Bubba would be leaving him for the full day that he was just sobbing when it came time to go! Honestly, I hadn't really though about how Reed going to full-day school would affect Asher. Asher wouldn't even get into a picture with Reed. Reed tried to hug Asher (and we tried to photograph it), but poor Asher was just so sad he didn't want anything to do with any of it! He's certainly missed his Bub this week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Weekly Beast 3: The Last Week of Summer!

We planned a very, very full week of activities for our second and last week of summer break. We made our summer break calendar on post-it notes so we’d have the ability to move the activities around as needed, but ended up doing everything on the day we’d planned it! I’m glad we made the calendar because I think it really helped us to take advantage of the short summer break we had and we were able to do a ton of fun stuff because we already had things planned. But, I will say that by the end of the week I was exhausted, as was Asher. The two of us are the biggest introverts in our family and being out and about that much was just kind of wearing. By the end of the week, Asher was super grumpy. So was I! We’ll definitely make a summer break/track break calendar again, but next time we’ll make sure to include home days where we do crafts or play in our kiddie pool.

Anyway, here is how we spent our week!

Monday: Mondays are ward park day, which I’m the organizer of, so we made sure to go! We took Reed’s friend Joshua with us; Asher’s friend Jake came with his mom; and one of our favorite ward friends, the Binghams, came too! We only lasted a little over an hour at the last ward park day, but this time we were there for three full hours! Keep in mind that it was over 100* for all three of those hours! The kids just had so much fun playing on the playground, then went to town playing in the splash pad forever. Lila was feeling a little left out because she couldn’t keep up with the big kids, but sweet Mara noticed and ended up playing with and entertaining Lila for over an hour. I know who I’m calling next time I need a babysitter!

We were able to squeeze in a quick trip Monday afternoon to the grocery store to pick up our Harry Potter premiere supplies, then went home and made all kinds of yummy confections: chocolate frogs, chocolate wands, polyjuice potion (sherbert + sprite), and pizza rolls! Last time, we made wings for the pizza rolls so they looked like snitches. This time, I ran out of time to make wings so we just called the rolls quaffles and bludgers!

Tuesday: On Tuesday we went to the Springs Preserve! We are on our second year-long pass to Springs Preserve—but we took a year-long break between the two—and between both passes I’ve only ever taken the kids to the Springs without Ryan once! And I was with a friend then. Tuesday was our first solo trip. I will say that a solo trip anywhere is not nearly as big a deal when your kids are 6, 4, and 2—way easier than when they were 4, 2, and 0! We spent the majority of our time in the Origen museum, seeing the Eat or be Eaten show, the flash flood, the new dinosaur room, and the animals outside. I don’t think we’ve ever been to the Springs without seeing the flash flood—I’m pretty sure it’s the kids’ favorite exhibit there. Next we went to the building that must not be named (because I don’t know its name, ha) and played with the ball section and saw the movie inside the garbage truck. The kids were pushing to go to the Nevada State Museum (also on the Springs property) after, but we’d already made it past our normal lunch time and had a half-an-hour drive home, so I vetoed their idea. I knew that if we played longer then still had to drive home, we’d have a very grumpy drive indeed. The kids were a little disappointed, but consoled themselves by walking as slowly as they could through the gift shop so they could examine every item there.

Wednesday: The Natural History Museum was on the docket for Wednesday. We won a year-long pass for $20 off to the NHM in the NPR radio auction in the spring, or we probably wouldn’t have a pass there, too! We started out at the piece of petrified wood outside. I am not sure if you are actually supposed to climb all over the petrified wood, but there is no sign saying you can’t and we’ve never been told otherwise, so we just go with it. The wood is super smooth and is sloped down, so the kids use it like a slide! We have fun before we even go through the doors.

Our next stop was the potty, because Lila really likes to go potty at various places and always wants to go potty when we are somewhere new.  She likes to see if she can find “silly potties”—or potties that don’t flush, like the potties on hikes!  After the bathroom break, we looked at the fish and sharks, went to Egypt, explored the kids’ play area, and ended at their new dinosaur exhibit. Side note: of the three big kids’ museums in town, all three have new dinosaur exhibits this summer. Was this planned? Anyway, the NHM dinosaur exhibit is super cool: it is a huge maze that you have to answer trivia questions to navigate through. At various points in the maze are activities: dinosaur shoes to make prints, a zip line, a huge dinosaur puzzle, and a climbing wall. The kids’ favorite is the zip line—we went back to it twice for extra rides! We also spent a long time in Egypt. The boys loved the hieroglyph decoding station and were the cutest little team! Asher was the fastest at finding which letter the symbol stood for, and each time they completed a word Reed would read it for them. At the end of the Egypt tour is a pile of blocks to build pyramids with, which we played with for quite a while, and a mummy with a scanner that shows various levels of images.

Thursday: Thursday was our Pump it Up day! Last time we went to Pump it Up, hardly any kids were there. I kind of expected this trip to be the same—and it did start out that way. But by an hour into our jump session, the place was crawling with kids. Asher, especially, was annoyed by the amounts of kids running around. We lasted another 30 minutes before we left. We still had fun, but next time I’m hoping there are fewer kids because Pump it Up is definitely more enjoyable with a smaller crowd. Side note: the kids and I all wore converse to match each other. On Saturday, we roped Ryan in to wearing converse with us, too!

Lila found a handy bed at pump it up.

Reed got all three green Mixels. When you have three mixels from the same color and series, you can get extra instructions online to turn them into a Mixel Max--one giant Mixel! He already created his Mixel Max, but I forgot to take a picture, oops!

Thursday afternoon was our big shopping trip--I try to plan for two weeks at a time--which was surprisingly not bad. I brought snacks, which helped, and both boys had decided to use some of their saved money to buy Mixel lego sets, which really helped. 

Friday: We quite recently went to Anderson Dairy with Asher’s school buddies, but Reed missed that trip and Asher was pumped about going again, so we scheduled our tour and to Anderson Dairy we went. This tour was perhaps our best Anderson Dairy tour to date. There was only one other family in the tour with us, so we could hear and see the tour guide more easily than usual. And, almost every machine in the factory was running, so we got to see way more than usual! We all agreed that the ice cream filling machine and the milk gallon filling machine were the coolest. I also enjoyed seeing the machine that folded and formed the round ice cream containers. The tour ends by giving everyone a cup of cookies n’ cream ice cream to enjoy, so that wasn’t bad, either!

After the tour, we had lunch, played a bit, then went to Reed's school to meet his new teacher, Ms. Sears. Reed is in a portable this year, which was a new experience. He was excited to see Sofia from his class last year and the two of them chose out spots at a table by each other. Ms. Sears seems quite nice and Reed is excited for a great year. Directly after going to Reed's school, we went to the surgery center for a tour! The lady giving us the tour was super nice and loaded Asher down with all kinds of swag: socks, a surgery gown, a mask to get him ready for the anesthesia mask, a surgery cap (times three--one for each kid), and a wrist band. We also got to see the red line--a literal line on the ground--where the scrubbing in process begins, and thus where Asher and I will part company. I'm really glad we got to take a tour because Asher's nerves were eased and I really think Tuesday's surgery will be less traumatic going in! Also, I noticed later when I look at the pictures I took that Lila's shoes were on the wrong feet--and must have been the entire tour!

Random picture of one of the crafts we made this week.

By Friday afternoon, the week of being out and about had gotten to both Asher and I (and, by extension, to Reed and Lila). Asher was overtired and exceedingly grumpy. Small things that don’t usually bother him were setting him off easily. And the big things that do usually bother him were causing a full-blown melt down. The other kids didn’t really pick up on this and Lila especially just wouldn’t leave him alone. I was tired from getting us prepped and too all these activities, so by the time Ryan came home Friday night I was in meltdown mode. And Ryan, sweet husband that he is, told me to go relax while he took all three kids out for a little while. I felt really bad, because he was originally going to take Asher out on a date to get ice cream, pudding, and jello for Asher’s surgery. Asher was surprisingly good natured about the change in plans, though, and didn’t mind Bub and Lila accompanying them at all. (Ryan did tell me later that Reed was worried about the change, because he didn’t want Asher’s hijacked date to push back Reed’s next date, haha.) I ignored the gigantic mess downstairs, climbed into bed, and finished my book. They still weren’t home, so I watched an episode of Grey’s all by myself. The quiet was exactly what I needed and I’m so grateful for Ryan for understanding that even without me telling him.

Saturday: I woke up Saturday morning at 8:00 (!!) and went downstairs to find a spotless living room, dining room, and kitchen! Ryan let me sleep in while he wrangled the kids into cleaning up. I function so much better when the stress of a messy house isn’t hanging over me, so I was extremely grateful to see all the work they’d put into the house. After reveling in the cleanliness for a while, we loaded everyone up to go play tourist on the strip, the last activity on our calendar. The boys mainly wanted to see the Bellagio Gardens and the 3D movie at MnM world, so that’s exactly what we did. When we made our way back to the car, it was around lunch time, so we decided to go to Cici’s Pizza Buffet because, well, pizza buffet. After lunch, we drove right next to the Pinball Hall of Fame, so decided that needed to be part of our day, too! Ryan had been to the Pinball Hall of Fame with a friend once while we were out of town, but the kids and I had never had the opportunity to go. We got five dollars’ worth of quarters, then set them loose on the machines! Luckily, $5 goes a long way in machines that only cost .25-.50 per game. Ryan stuck with the boys while Lila and I wandered around looking for drive-drives, AKA games that have steering wheels. We found several drive-drive games, the most notable being a purple drive-drive.

When our quarters were out, we went home to give Lila a nap. By dinner time, the kids were all grouchy again, so it seemed only right to leave the house (I obviously did not learn my lesson this week) (buuuuut I will say that generally, going to the park is low-stress and happiness-inducing, as was the case this night). We went to the “building park,” where we rode bikes, scored with free popsicles from the Mountain’s Edge Association, and had a fun little picnic dinner. Finally, we went home and tucked everyone into bed.

Sunday: Ryan and the kids had a relaxing morning while I went to ward council, where I learned that our ward is splitting again! The ward split once right before we moved here and once about 18 months ago. Crazy. Sunday night, I put on my first-ever Priesthood Preview, which went well. As I got into Ryan’s car to leave, though, the car wouldn’t start! Thankfully one of my counselors was still there. The two of us nervously (and with help over the phone) figured out how to connect the jump cables and got the car started. Hallelujah.

 Other random item of note: After being cleared by my PT (my dad) I started exercising again this week! Just walking, and just short walks, but it's better than notthing!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Weekly Beast 2: St. George

We wanted to do something fun during Reed's two-week summer break, and going to Grandma's house was high on our list of fun things. Then we found out that Kayla and Ben were going to be at Grandma's for a week during Reed's summer break and the timing seemed too perfect to pass up! Soon, Lynnie was planning to come down for a long weekend, too, then Kenny and Grace decided to meet my parents halfway between their houses and send their kids to St. George for a week, too! Just like that, we had an almost reunion.

One of the kids' favorite play time activities: corn hole! Ryan built these beauties for Kayla's wedding.

Monday: The kids and I had to hang around in Vegas for a while to wait for a recycling company to pick up our old fridge/freezer. They weren't scheduled to come until the afternoon, so we picked up Reed's buddy Joshua and headed to the park for ward park day! A lot of other moms and kids came and we had a super fun time, despite it being about a million degrees outside. After our fridge was picked up that afternoon, we hit the road! The boys had pre-asked Grandma if we could do s'mores that night, and she of course obliged, so after dinner the boys caught tons of caterpillars while Grandpa got some charcoals smoking. Soon we were enjoying chocolatey marshmallowy s'mores bliss.

Tuesday: I mentioned in my last post that the kids and I had put together a calendar of all the things we wanted to do during Reed's summer break. St. George was not excluded from our calendar; so on Tuesday, we checked one of the first things off our list: river splash pad, carousel, and Judd's. We had Hailey and Kody and Ben and Kayla in tow, which made our day even more fun! The kids spent most of their time at the splash pad "building dams" with their bodies. Their most successful dam even caused water to start spilling out over the edges of the river path before they stood up and let the water rush through! 

Western Grape Skeletonizer--which grows into a moth. Yuck!

Lila was in her zone. She took me by the finger, then led me all over the splash pad as she climbed up and down the rocks and went a little bit of everywhere (with me following, of course). Her path reminded me of the cartoon "Family Circus"--there's a recurring bit where a dotted line shows the path of one of the kids and it loops here and there and everywhere. That was Lila at the splash pad.

After a while, the kids wanted to lay out to dry--luckily, it was overcast that day so not quite so hot. Unluckily, the lack of sun also made the kids a little chilly when wet. Anyway, they dried while we all enjoyed a snack of granola bars and goldfish. When we were sufficiently dry, we took a ride on the carousel. Lila was not sure about the carousel at first, but I think she ended up enjoying it a little bit at least. After the carousel, we walked across the street to Judd's, a cute little candy store that's been in St. George forever. I let the kids each pick a few treats, which we feasted on outside.

When Grandma got home from work, we all trekked to Target! Grandma had gotten Hailey and Kody each something to help them get ready for back to school and wanted to do the same for Reed and Asher. Asher decided he wanted school supplies--because he'll definitely need those all the time in preschool :) He found an awesome Star Wars tin pencil case, which he filled with colored pencils, tape in a red dispenser (red for the dark side), two glue sticks, and star wars puzzle erasers. He also got a Darth Vader folder to put all his school papers in. Asher was so so excited when everything fit perfectly inside the case and spent the next few days showing everyone at Grandma's house individually, and playing with the contents of his case. Reed decided he wanted a shirt to wear on the first day. He and Grandma first started in the character shirt section, because that's what Kody likes and had gotten. Reed wasn't really feeling the character shirts, though, and told us he wanted a shirt with a cool design. We looked at every shirt at Target (literally) and came up empty-handed! He was a little disappointed, but Grandma promised we'd check another store before we went back to Vegas.

Tuesday night, I got to go to the temple while my mom babysat the kids! The experience was so peaceful and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to go.

Wednesday: On Wednesday morning, we went to my friend Claudia's house. She and I have been friends since high school and we had a lovely time catching up while the kids played.

Thursday: I asked Hailey and Kody earlier in the week if there was anything in particular they wanted to do while we were in St. George. They said a few things I'd already put on the list from the boys' requests, then Kody added geocaching, explaining that aunts and uncles and his parents had promised to take him geocaching before but never had. Well. We were going to geocaching this time! On Thursday morning, we loaded up in the car and were lucky to find a string of geocaches (all hidden by the same person) a mere 1.2 miles from my mom's house! Reed, Kody, and Asher all took along notebooks and pens and made notes of the name of each cache and where we found the cache hiding, which was kind of adorable. Unfortunately, about half the geocaches were missing--we couldn't find them and, according to other logs, other people couldn't find them either. But we did successfully find 3 caches and the kids all had fun, so I think it was a win!  They were all especially enamored by the name of the last cache: Hailey's Softball Cache. Unfortunately, that cache was one of the missing caches!

 One our way to St. George. They were a little pumped!

Thursday night, Ryan surprised the kids by driving to St. George! He decided Thursday morning to come up to meet us because he missed us a lot (because we are awesome). Reed gave Ryan a big hug and immediately asked, "Did you bring Harry Potter?" He had. They immediately found a quiet place to read together. Later that night, Lynnie and Nick and fam arrived in St. George, too!

Friday: Friday was basically party day. We started at the Children's Museum. The kids wandered from room to room, upstairs and downstairs, until we'd covered basically every square inch of the place. After a pit stop at Grandma's for lunch, we set out for a few quick store shops. We first went to Downeast, where I lucked out at the sale rack with a swimsuit! (!!!!!!) The one I found was literally the only one my size left on the rack. I have been needing a new swimsuit for approximately 2 years now, so I was exceedingly happy with my find. We next perused DI for a bit, then finally--to the kids' relief--headed to the next fun spot: The Washington Community Center!

When we lived in St. George, we had a family pass to the community center and would regularly go to the community center for swimming, then to Costco to grab a pizza for dinner. I worked out there fairly consistently, too, so walking through the doors was a little bit like coming home--to a home that smelled of chlorine. Anyway, we were soon in the pool, having fun. The boys were dying to go down the hydrotube, and soon coaxed Ben and I into taking them. Then Ben and Ryan took them. Then Ben and Kayla. Then Ben's back got serious road rash (how does that even happen) from the slide, so it was time for a break. We spent a happy two hours floating the lazy river, going on the Jae Jae slides, and going on the kids' water jungle gym slides approximately 1,347 times. 

After we were home and fed, the adult couples left all the kids with Grandma and Grandpa and headed out on a triple date to the county fair! My saw an elephant show (which actually wasn't too exciting), a hypnotist show that Kayla got to be a part of, and a band we actually ended up really liking. We, of course, took a money shot in front of the ferris wheel, but did not actually ride any rides! Random side note: we asked teenage boys to take the picture of us and we ended up with two selfies of them and a dark and blurry picture of us, ha. We next asked teenage girls and they got the job done beautifully. When we were worn out, we went back home to homemade ice cream. Yum!

Saturday: We started the day at the parade for the fair. Ryan and I were both skeptical about the parade, mostly because it was insanity hot outside and we thought the kids would get bored. Happily, though, my dad had gone almost a full hour early and reserved us a nice patch of shade, which took care of the heat problem; and each child procured a full sack of candy, which took care of the boredom problem.

PC: Asher Hambly

Ryan had a fantastic idea for after the parade: the Warbird Aviation Museum. We were the only ones who had ever been there before--and the last time we went Reed was only 2--so it was something new and fun for everyone! The kids all enjoyed a turn sitting inside the cockpit of an actual plane--except Asher, who for reasons undisclosed did not want to get in at all. The tour was super interesting and we got to see many planes and their ammunition. 

After the museum, we bid farewell to half of our group, then went to the park! The park we decided to visit was a park Reed and I used to go to all the time when we lived in our Bloomington basement apartment because it was the park where we had our ward park day. The park was essentially deserted because it was super hot outside, so we had it mostly to ourselves. Ryan and the boys found an awesome loop that went all the way around the park. After he accompanied them around the loop once--him on foot and them on their bikes--Ryan asked Asher if Asher wanted to attempt the loop alone. To everyone's shock, Asher said yes! He pedaled hard and did so great! After his solo loop, Asher talked Reed into taking a loop with them. While they were busy riding, Lila and I were busy getting wet in the splash pad. I would count to three, then she would run through, then she'd yell, "Lou turn, Mommy!" and count to three for me. We had a lot of fun. Eventually, we were hot, worn out and hungry, so we went to McDonald's for a fun lunch.

Saturday evening was McKenna Remund's wedding reception. The Remunds have been my parents' neighbors since my family moved to St. George in 2001. Her reception was at the St. George Social Hall, which was where Ryan and I had our reception 9 years ago! I had a lot of fun being there and remembering our wedding day. McKenna looked beautiful and happy and the reception was great.

Sunday: All of a sudden it was Sunday! I got the most awful call Sunday morning, telling me my primary secretary, Tye Chipman, was being released. I started bawling on the phone with the second counselor in the bishopric, which was probably not what he was expecting. Tye has been the most amazing secretary, doing more than her part and relieving my burden so much. I suddenly felt the weight of all she does pressing on me and have honestly been kind of in a funk since. I'm still not sure who my new secretary will be and am having a hard time with the whole thing. Anyway, once I'd stopped crying, we all went to sacrament, then after lunch, everyone started rolling out.

At home, Reed and Ryan finished Harry Potter, at which point Ryan had the audacity to suggest we watch the movie that night. Reed started crying. Why did he start crying? Because we did not have any ingredients for Harry Potter food. We postponed the movie and played family games instead.

Phew! That really was a beast of a post and literally took me four days to write. Now for a three-day break until the next one!

 We took turns trying to be the Fighting Irish guy